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Court orders release of Mubarak

Updated August 22, 2013

CAIRO, Aug 21: An Egyptian court on Wednesday ordered ex-president Hosni Mubarak freed while he stands trial for corruption and killing protesters, as authorities pressed their roundup of supporters of his ousted successor.

There was no indication of whether a release was imminent. In the past, prosecutors have filed new charges to keep Mubarak in jail after courts have ordered his conditional release.

The decision added a volatile new element to the political turmoil that has gripped Egypt since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a July 3 coup, with 1,000 people killed in violence in the past week.

That unrest has prompted international criticism, and EU foreign ministers agreed in an emergency meeting on Wednesday to suspend the sale of arms and security equipment to Egypt.

Last year, Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the deaths of some of the 850 people killed in the 2011 uprising that overthrew him, as well as on charges of corruption.

He was sentenced to life in prison, but an appeals court ordered a retrial on technicalities. Should he be freed, he still faces those charges and his next hearing is scheduled for Sunday.

Meanwhile, authorities continued to round up members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Overnight, they detained Islamist leaders Safwat Hegazy and Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the group's Freedom and Justice Party. Mr Hegazy was arrested near the border with Libya and Mr Ali at Cairo airport as he tried to leave for Rome, they said.

Since the army ousted Mr Morsi after massive demonstrations against him, authorities have issued hundreds of detention orders and arrest warrants for Brotherhood members.

Dozens of the group’s leaders have been rounded up, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie, who was detained on Tuesday. It was the first time a Brotherhood supreme guide has been arrested since 1981.

The Brotherhood swiftly named deputy Mahmoud Ezzat, described by experts as a hawk and conservative, to serve as interim guide.

Mr Badie and two other senior Brotherhood leaders are expected to appear on Sunday before a court on allegations they incited the murder of protesters in front of their headquarters on June 30.

Egypt has experienced a week of unprecedented political bloodletting, which began on August 14 when security forces stormed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.

The crackdown and resulting violence across the country killed nearly 600 people in a single day, the bloodiest in Egypt’s recent history.

The deadly dispersals of the protest camps were followed by days of violence that have seen the country’s toll rise to nearly 1,000 dead, including 37 Islamist prisoners who died in custody on Sunday night.

That excludes the toll in the Sinai peninsula, where militants have launched near daily attacks against police and army facilities.

On Monday, 25 policemen were killed in a single incident, when gunmen dragged them from two buses and shot them dead execution style near the border with the Gaza Strip.

The incident prompted national condemnation and mourning and brought the week’s toll in Sinai alone to 45, according to a count.

The international community has responded with shock to the violence. —AFP